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How to Successfully Use the Run-Walk Marathon Strategy

Mae's Miles and Music contains affiliate links and is a member of the Amazon LLC Associates Program. If you make a purchase using one of these Amazon links, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. Read our disclaimer here for more information.

Is it possible to run-walk a marathon? Yes!

Is it difficult to run-walk a marathon? This answer is also likely “yes” as the distance of a marathon is pretty serious. But this method can certainly make the achievement more possible for many people.

Keep in mind that most races have course time limits. This means we must be strategic when using the run-walk-run method. Research the slowest pace you can keep to complete the course. This will help you stay ahead of that time limit to avoid a “Did Not Finish.”

If you train appropriately, this method is viable for completing the 26.2-mile distance of a full marathon. This also means that you could run-walk run a half marathon. This is great news for many as the 13.1-mile distance has become quite popular in recent years.

My Run-Walk Marathon Experience

In 2017 I suffered a stress fracture in my foot and couldn’t run for nine weeks.

This time was the lead-up to my second go at the Chicago Bank of America Marathon, one of the best marathons in the US. I was devastated. How could I possibly run a marathon without training?

For the next few weeks, I relied on swimming to keep up with my cardiovascular health. Swimming is a very beneficial form of cross-training for any runner. I also began planning how to complete a marathon with almost no running during my training cycle.

Woman swims underwater in a pool. Swimming is a low impact way to train when considering how to run walk a marathon.

That’s when I did a deep dive into the Galloway Run-Walk-Run Method.

After my 9 weeks off from running, I eased back in by doing the run-walk-run method. I ran on grass only and for a very short distance. Then I began running a little longer spending partial time on pavement.

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    At my best, I was able to complete a training run of just under 9 miles. This wasn’t enough to consider me well-trained for a half marathon, let alone the full marathon I was to take on.

    The morning of October 8, 2017, was an unseasonably warm day in Chicago. I set out to focus only on finishing with help from the run-walk-run method. I’m happy that I completed the race, and it wasn’t even my slowest race time. This is proof that this method can assist your running goals.

    Where Did the Run-Walk-Run Method Originate?

    As mentioned, this technique is also known as the “Galloway Method,” named after Jeff Galloway. Jeff designed this method in the early 1970s. He saw that it helped newer runners become dedicated to the sport by helping them find enjoyment and avoid injuries.

    Through his training, the findings were incredible. Taking regular walk breaks led some seasoned runners to hit personal records. And so Jeff Galloway honed in on the best training to help runners of all levels.

    Whether you want to run/walk 2 miles or 26.2, following these tips will help you succeed!

    Complete a Marathon: The Run-Walk-Run Method

    This method is exactly what it sounds like. You split your time between running and walking. However, it’s more strategic than just running when you feel like it and walking when you’re out of breath.

    A great element of this method is that it is completely customizable for each runner. It’s also entirely adjustable so that as your stamina increases, you can apply a higher level of challenge if desired.

    The run-walk-run intervals can be changed on the spot if you are feeling sluggish one day. You may also find that your race-day adrenaline means you can add a few seconds to your run interval. You may even earn yourself a quicker finish time.

    How to Begin Run-Walk-Run Training

    💡 Training during early morning or late evening hours? Stay safe with the best light-up running vest – the Noxgear Tracer2.

    Identify Your Goals

    If you’re completely new to running or returning after some time away, gently test your limits.

    When you are in the running stage of this method, how do you find your breathing to be? Are you out of breath? Would you be able to carry on a conversation easily?

    If you’re out of breath, decrease the time you spend running and increase the length of time walking. Also, remember that you can always decrease your pace. These two main strategies will help you to get the most out of your training.

    Once you’ve found a comfortable starting place, note how long you’re walking and running. The options with this are pretty limitless.

    Female marathon runner takes a selfie in the Chicago Marathon start line corral.

    Set Proper Expectations

    You may be ambitious and want to complete your first marathon in record time. This may not be realistic for you, and it’s best to find suitable expectations for yourself. To do this, you’ll want to find your Magic Mile Time. This will help pinpoint your best goal pace time.

    As you continue your training, you may find that you can challenge yourself a bit and increase your overall pace.

    Slow and Steady Your Training Pace

    Many reputable training plans suggest keeping your long runs slower than your short ones. The Galloway Method follows the same common rule.

    This is an especially important rule on hot days. Sometimes the most difficult thing to do as a runner is admit you need to take it easy. Push too hard, and it becomes more difficult to avoid injury.

    Remember that using this method may make you a stronger runner. This means that perhaps throughout your training cycle, you will increase your pace as you feel necessary. While tracking your time is a good measurement, tracking how you feel is an even more accurate tell.

    Run-Walk-Run a Marathon Without Training

    Is it possible to complete a marathon using the run-walk-run method? Absolutely. Is it possible to complete a race without any training? Well, anything is possible. But that might come at a cost.

    I believe my stress fracture occurred during my job at the time. I spent a lot of time on my feet walking around at my job. It was also the beginning of my training cycle for my next race. Adding increased mileage and time on your feet together too quickly is the perfect recipe for an injury.

    Plan your time accordingly to train properly and be confident when you toe the line at your race.

    The Best Run-Walk-Run Ratio

    To Finish a Marathon

    You’ll need to find a ratio of running to walking for this method to work for you. But what is the best ratio? This answer depends on the runner asking the question and their individual goals.

    If you aim to finish a marathon using this method, you have many options.

    For example, to run a 10-minute mile, you could train by running for 90 seconds and walking for 30 seconds. Then you repeat this ratio throughout the race. This was the exact ratio I used to complete my full marathon after my injury. It worked!

    Remember, simply finishing a marathon means you’ve successfully earned your 26.2 bumper sticker for your vehicle!

    To Hit a Goal Time

    The flexibility in the run-walk-run method means that you can match your ratio to meet your goal. To complete a marathon and earn a PR (personal record), you may need to run for 5 minutes and walk for 30 seconds. It is a very customizable strategy.

    Distance-Based Method

    You may even choose to base your ratio on a mileage number. For someone running a race with a goal time, you can run a mile and then walk for 30 seconds. This can really help you to achieve your goals within your abilities.

    How Long Will It Take to Run-Walk a Marathon?

    To know how long it will take to finish a marathon, track your personal pace and identify the best run-walk ratio. You must also identify the average mile time necessary to hit a specific goal.

    You might hit 7-minute miles and require fewer walking breaks if you’re a swift runner. If you simply want to finish the distance without aiming for a finish time, you could take 8 hours to finish a full marathon.

    This is why it is incredibly important to determine if your specific race has a course time limit. You’ll better understand what you need to train to complete your race.

    This Amphipod handheld water bottle is a great way to stay hydrated while on the move in your next run-walk race.
    ✅ Comfortable ✅ Has a key pocket ✅ Holds 20 ounces!

    The St. Jude Nashville Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, which I have completed twice, has a course time limit of 6 hours. This means you’ll need an average mile time of about 13 minutes just to finish the race.

    With this goal in mind, you must aim for running and walking in equal amounts of time. You could run for 30 seconds and walk for 30 seconds. Use what works best for your body and find the best intervals during your training cycle.

    Benefits of Using Run-Walk-Run For a Marathon

    Accessibility

    One of the greatest benefits of this methodology of completing a marathon is that it makes the sport more accessible. There will always be elites competing and finishing marathons in just over 2 hours.

    However, marathons are not reserved only for elite runners. This sport is a wonderful outlet for those who want to commit to a healthy lifestyle, are coping with mental health issues, and just want to add positive social activity to their daily lives.

    The run-walk-run method opens the door to all kinds of runners and walkers.

    Decrease in Injury

    Another important benefit is the decreased probability of injury. After 9 weeks of no running during my stress fracture, I hope never to have another injury again. The run-walk-run method got me to the finish line without any additional injuries.

    When I take time away from running, I always return using the run-walk-run method. Sometimes it’s intentional because I know the risk of injury can be high when covering high mileage too quickly. Other times it just feels good to take some walk breaks.

    Less Stressful

    I’m all for the enjoyment of the sport of running. Running is hard. Really hard. If the run-walk-run method makes it more enjoyable and accessible, what more convincing is needed?

    Is the Run-Walk Method Better than Running?

    The best method for completing a marathon or other long-distance event is doing what is best for your body.

    Generally, runners find that their ability to adapt and recover after a race is better when using walk breaks.

    This method is often credited with less risk of injury through training and race day. The run-walk-run method may be better for a new runner or a runner prone to injury.

    However, millions of marathon runners in any given year do well with running the entire race. The run-walk-run method gives many runners the mental upper hand when trying to finish a marathon.

    How Do I Run-Walk a Marathon in Under 4 Hours?

    If you have specific goals, you can do some math to understand the benchmarks you must meet to succeed. First, you’ll need to find what average pace you need to hit to run that marathon time.

    A common marathon goal for moderate runners is a 4-hour marathon. This means you’ll need to average a 9-minute mile.

    If you want to run-walk a marathon in 4 hours or less, you’ll have to run more frequently. A good ratio to aim for to achieve this goal is to run for 2 minutes and walk for 30 seconds. This also means that you are holding a good, consistent pace to hit your goal when you run.

    An Easier Way to Manage Run-Walk-Run?

    Maybe you don’t run with a watch. Perhaps you don’t have the ability to know how much time has passed to know if you’re meeting your intervals. Can I still complete a marathon using the run-walk-run method?

    Sure! One effective way to use this method without technology is by taking walk breaks at each water or fuel stop. This can help keep your walk time spaced at a generally equal distance. It’s also an especially helpful technique that allows you to take time to sip your water or chew your fuel.

    Remember when you take these walk breaks to move out of the way of the runners behind you. Many runners continue to run through these stations. Too often, people stop short at a water station, which can cause serious problems, including injuries.

    You’ll also want to keep up your walking pace. You want to continue your pace to ensure your muscles don’t tighten. If you’ve ever run a dar distance, you know that feeling of lactic acid build-up when you stop running. You don’t want that happening during the race.

    Female marathon runner poses in front of the Cloud Gate art installation in Chicago while holding a Chicago Marathon Medal. Picture is post-race of learning how to run walk a marathon.

    What Do I Need to Succeed at this Method?

    Using the run-walk-run method isn’t all that different than regular running. Invest in good shoes, comfortable socks, and appropriate moisture-wicking tops and bottoms, and remember your fuel.

    When covering great distances, your body needs fuel for the full marathon. You will recover quicker and stronger if you’re well-nourished.

    Be sure you have all the necessities at your next race, whether you run, walk, or run-walk-run. This printable packing list will help you prepare for your travels.

    The Wrap-Up: Run-Walk-Run a Marathon Successfully

    Overall you want to remember that every runner is unique. What works for your running buddy may not work for you. You want to train the right way to avoid injury.

    A run-walk-run method is a great option for new and skilled runners. I had completed many marathons before the first time I had to run-walk run a marathon.

    Use this method throughout your training to understand what you must do on race day. Try different ratios as you need to ensure that your breathing is comfortable.

    Congratulations if you choose to use the run-walk-run method to complete your first marathon! You have picked a great way to get to the start and finish lines.

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